Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 29

In the twenty-ninth chapter of The Amber Spyglass, the battle against the Kingdom of Heaven begins. YESSSSSSSS. Intrigued? Then it is time for Mark to read The Amber Spyglass.


You know, there’s really only one thing I truly wanted from the battle between Lord Asriel’s fortress and the Clouded Mountain: it needed to be weird. This is a battle for all existence, comprising innumerable parallel universes, and goddamn it, IT HAS TO BE FUCKING WEIRD.

Oh, Pullman. This is certainly one of the more bizarre battles I’ve ever read. (Not seen, though. I recently watched FLCL. I think that tops things out for weird battle scenes.) For once, I actually enjoy how confusing and overwhelming this all is, and I think it lends itself nicely to converting just how chaotic the battle on the plain is. Initially, though, I thought that Pullman might be delaying the start of the battle, despite the chapter title, because it was clear this was all from the point of view of Lyra (and a little bit of Will). We meet back up with them as they head back into the world of the dead to head towards Lord Asriel. Their lack of dæmons is starting to take a toll on them, and I think that’s one of the reasons that using the alethiometer is so difficult for Lyra. To be fair, of course, they have been traveling for days on end and they just OPENED A DOOR IN THE WORLD OF THE DEAD and they exist somewhere in between life and death and I will stop listing all the ridiculous things that have happened recently. When was the last time Will or Lyra had like…a full night of sleep? Or a nap? Damn, now I want a nap just thinking about this.

Lyra finally does read the alethiometer, and I came to learn that they were headed straight for Lord Asriel’s world, and I suddenly felt excited to see how Pullman would introduce them to the battle, especially since Will or Lyra have no clue what to expect. I liked the idea of using them to act almost as our own eyes in what was to come.

I also enjoyed Lee’s parting bit of motivation that he gives Lyra:

“Lyra, gal, it won’t be long now. When you see that old bear, you tell him Lee went out fighting. And when the battle’s over, there’ll be all the time in the world to drift along the wind and find the atoms that used to be Hester, and my mother in the sagelands, and my sweethearts–all my sweethearts…Lyra, child, you rest when this is done, you hear? Life is good, and death is over…”

oh my god, Lee Scoresby, my heart is weeping. Not literally, that would be really gross. But this line has a completely different meaning to me: this book is almost over. And people are going to die, and even if there is no more “death” anymore, it’s not going to make me feel any better about losing any of the remaining characters.

Sorry, I’ll stop being sad. How about we celebrate Lyra naming No-Name as Gracious Wings? Again, I can’t ignore that Lyra and Will helped fundamentally change the way all universes function, and they did so out of love and respect. It only stands to reason that Lyra would treat no-name with the same outlook, giving her a name and hugging her.

I don’t know that we’ll ever see No-Name again. Hell, everything from this moment on has such a ring of finality to it that I believe it’s entirely possible we won’t even see Lee Scoresby or John Parry again either. I got a hint of that when Will looks upon the ghost of his father one last time before they leave the world of the dead, and he forgets he is not supposed to. OH GOD IF HE HAD BROKEN THE SUBTLE KNIFE AGAIN…. Well, let’s not think of those things.

Will concentrates, cuts into Lord Asriel’s world, and it’s pretty much hell in a matter of a second or two:

The first thing they sensed was noise. The light that struck in was dazzling, and they had to cover their eyes, ghosts and living alike, so they could see nothing for several seconds; but the pounding, the explosions, the rattle of gunfire, the shouts and screams were all instantly clear, and horribly frightening.

It’s here. They’re here. The battle against the Authority has begun. And oh my god what is going on. I love the way that Pullman drifts from one site to another, as if we are a camera panning across the landscape of the fight, focusing briefly on one attack vehicle, then on to “flying machines” and gyropters, then “columns of riflemen” and “troops equipped with flamethrowers, with poison-spraying cannons.” It’s pure disorder and disarray, violent and nasty, and it’s FUCKING WEIRD. The first sign that something is not right is when the Kingdom forces retreat, even though they are outnumbering Lord Asriel’s.

That’s when the Specters arrive, and they begin to torment Asriel’s troops. Of course, I was more interested in seeing how they would react to ghosts, since John Parry believed it was possible they could fight these creatures. On top of that, Will and Lyra didn’t have dæmons. How can the Specters attack them, if they even can?

The ghosts clambered out of the earth, pale forms paler still in the midday light. They had nothing to fear anymore, and they threw themselves against the invisible Specters, grappling and wrestling and tearing at things Will and Lyra couldn’t see at all.

The riflemen and the other living allies were bemused: they could make nothing of this ghostly, spectral combat.

SEE? THIS IS WHAT I WANTED. Oh god, how amazing would this look on film? At times, Pullman is such a visual writer, and he crafts images that so strongly resonate in my brain. This image (along with quite a few others in this chapter) is powerfully strange. Ghosts of the dead fighting Specters, all of which people of different ages see to different degrees. So the allies’ view is entirely different than Will and Lyra’s. THAT IS AMAZING TO ME.

But there’s no time for fascinated interest, because this battle is not just something to observe and feel neat about. Can I say that shit is real? I say it a lot, and it’s been occurring rather frequently lately, but we are rapidly approaching a monumental peak for The Amber Spyglass. Surrounded by the Kingdom’s forces, Will and Lyra soon begin to feel the affects of the Specters. Perhaps because they’re not fully dead, they still can feel something when they go after them. At least that’s what I thought at first, but Pullman corrects that notion quickly:

She knew what it was at once, though she’d never felt it before. And it told her two things: first, that she must have grown up enough now to become vulnerable to the Specters, and secondly, that Pan must be somewhere close by.

OH SHIT! Oh god, she’s growing up? I mean, it makes sense. Look at all that Lyra has gone through in the last year! Oh god, why do I feel like a younger sister of mine is going to the first day of high school? DON’T FORGET YOUR SWEATER, MAKE LOTS OF FRIENDS. Ok, I’ll skip the cuteness now because fucking Specters. I feel even worse about the situation because Lyra is screaming over the din of battle for Pantalaimon, who we know is somewhere nearby, but what if she doesn’t find him? What if Metatron gets to Pan first? How can Will recognize his own dæmon, since he’s never seen it before?

Then some mysterious wind settles over the plain, bringing dark thunderheads upon the battlefield, lightning streaking across the sky, and cracks of thunder unlike anything Will and Lyra have ever heard. And flying straight into this storm?

WITCHES. Ruta Skadi’s clan, and Reina Miti’s, too. OH GOD WHERE IS SERAFINA. SHE HAS BEEN ABSENT SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK. I really hope she is still alive. I was comforted by the fact that the vast majority of witches were on Lord Asriel’s side, and then in awe of their attack on the angels. It was clear to me that someone in the Clouded Mountain had brought the storm with them, and it was confirmed as a technique to drown out the witch fires, though that proved to be an exercise in futility. And look, I really love the idea that these feminine creatures who are reviled throughout Christian history and popular mythology were given this heroic, powerful role in the war against the Authority. The witches in Lyra’s world are not the same as what we were taught, yes, but the symbolism is not lost on me.

I was also aware of the unique, personal agony that all four of the characters who’d come from the world of the dead were experiencing. They all cried out for their dæmons, whatever form they might take, and the Gallivespians were eager to have any acknowledgement from their kindred who are flying above them. It’s such a brief, painful moment to read about because of the horror these characters have seen, and especially so for the Gallivespians, who are nearing their last moments of their lifespan anyway.

And I can only hope that it’s piloted by someone from Asriel’s forces, but this hectic chapter ends when an intention craft appears above the group of them before flying away.

But they had no time to wonder about it, because another head-wrenching throb of nausea told Lyra that Pan was in danger again, and then Will felt it, too, and they stumbled blindly through the puddles and the mud and the chaos of wounded men and fighting ghosts, helpless, terrified, and sick.

Good god. WHAT THE FUCK.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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68 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Amber Spyglass’: Chapter 29

  1. Harrison says:

    You know, I once heard someone complain that Pullman "cheated us out" of this final battle between Asriel's forces and the Kingdom of Heaven. I honestly have no idea why they would have said this. This chapter alone is pure awesome chaos. Perhaps they were annoyed that we see it through Lyra's eyes, meaning we only get an idea of the battle. But I think that that would have been silly. I like that the real point of this isn't the battle: it is Lyra and Will's desperate search for their daemons. Which of course makes sense; they are our main characters and they have lost the most important part of themselves. This serves to make the battle more intense than it would have been otherwise, because it acts not as a solitary event, but a huge obstacle and a wonderful backdrop to the much more personal search for the daemons.

    Lee Scoresby breaks my heart forever! And John Parry! 🙁 I would have been interested to see the moment John joined Lee in the land of the dead, immediately after breaking his oath to Lee about protecting Lyra. Of course, it all worked out on its own but still. Lee's impassioned speech to John before he died about how if he broke the oath he made that whatever is left of himself will pursue whatever is left of John… Must have been kind of an awkward moment when they were both in the Land of the Dead.

    "Their lack of dæmons is starting to take a toll on them, and I think that’s one of the reasons that using the alethiometer is so difficult for Lyra."

    That makes a lot of sense!

  2. Hanah_banana says:

    I listened to this chapter on the audiobook and it is SO HARD to have coherent thoughts because everything is so confused. In a good way! Because that is what battles are (probably) like! And god everything is going on and Pan is near so that's GOOD because Lyra needs him (and more importantly I need him, I miss Pan and his snark) but then the Spectres are around and now they might actually be able to KILL Pan and that would just be the worst. I mean, daemons that go out when you die become atoms of everything, but what happens to daemons which get eaten by Spectres? Can the ghosts of those people ever find the atoms which belonged to their daemons again? Do they even get to become ghosts, seeing as their souls are basically gone?? ALL THE QUESTIONS AND I DO NOT LIKE THE THOUGHT OF ANY OF THE ANSWERS.

  3. Valerie says:

    "this ghostly, spectral combat."

    Lol…. ghosts and Spectres….

  4. Bill says:

    Wait, you watched FLCL?! I know its a little too weird to review but did you like it?

  5. monkeybutter says:

    Oh, Pullman. This is certainly one of the more bizarre battles I’ve ever read. (Not seen, though. I recently watched FLCL. I think that tops things out for weird battle scenes.)

    Mark! Mark! Watch the movie Paprika! Then get back to us. 😀

    I had completely forgotten about the battle, and I don't know if it's because of the confusion, or because I was racing through hoping that Lyra and Will would find their daemons. It's a stressful stretch, and I was shocked how the chapter ended. They're lost, in disarray, and amidst it all, growing up. You really do get the sense that the story is drawing to a close, and I feel a little sad, too.

    Jbefg bs nyy, Ylen'f fgnegvat gb ybfr ure novyvgl gb ernq gur nyrguvbzrgre jvgu ure znghevgl. 🙁

    • knut_knut says:

      YES!! WATCH PAPRIKA! It's super bizarre but amazing

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:



        • knut_knut says:

          THEY ARE MOVIES!! Paprika is kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind of like Inception (I think it was the inception of Inception) in that it focuses on the dream world and reality. I don't know if you can find them on Netflix but if you can you should!

        • monkeybutter says:

          I don't think it's on instant, sadly enough, but they might have it available on DVD. Or you could watch through other means…just watch it!

        • The Oakland Public Library has them! The Piedmont Branch has them ON THE SHELF RIGHT NOW.

          They are movies by the late Satoshi Kon, whom I prefer to Miyazaki. He's much darker and more psychological, and the bizarreness is rooted in character and emotion rather than, I don't know, happy fun big-eyed beasties or whatever. His editing is brilliant, and he clearly understands the power of animation as a medium.

          Perfect Blue was Black Swan before Black Swan (or the animated lovechild of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch, if you will), and Paprika was Inception before Inception. Taking a simplistic view of things, of course. Paprika in particular is visually fucking stunning, and I wish I'd seen it in the theater.

          • monkeybutter says:

            That middle paragraph is perfect. Satoshi Kon was the best, and I get sad every time I realize he isn't around to make more great films.

            • I've only watched those two movies and Paranoia Agent, and I only watched them after he died! So now I've got Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers, and that's it! I just put the latter in my Netflix queue to watch in the next week or so; Netflix doesn't have Millennium Actress! I think the library does, but I will save it for later.

        • tigerpetals says:

          Anime movies by Satoshi Kon. I watched Perfect Blue. Quite scary and creepy.

    • Yeeesss, Paprika! And Perfect Blue! So good!!

      • monkeybutter says:

        You're in charge of making sure Mark watches them!

        • steph says:

          Mark! Mark! Watch the movie Paprika! Then get back to us.


          you'll seriously shit your pants of the confusing (not to mention the brilliancy) graphics Paprika has

  6. knut_knut says:

    I seriously do not understand how I could have forgotten EVERYTHING about this book. I know I didn’t enjoy reading The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass as much as I enjoyed the first book because I knew nothing about Christianity and it REALLY confused me, but you’d think I’d at least remember this chapter or the world of the dead! I’m ashamed of pre-adolescent me.

    This chapter made me realize how badly I want to see this book on screen- IT WOULD BE SO BEAUTIFUL! :’) I know the story would probably be all mucked up but Pullman describes these worlds and events so beautifully that I just want to SEE them.

    • Harrison says:

      I know! I think a proper film adaptation could be amazing! It's so sad to me that we probably won't ever get to see that.

      I'm holding out hope for an awesome comic book series.

  7. muzzery says:

    See New Line? See what you FUCKED UP?! We would have seen these amazing things like the Battle on the Plain between countless worlds and the Ghosts and the Spectres and the Witches and Gyropters and Gallivespians and World of the Dead. WHY NEW LINE? Why your buffoonery over the first movie?

    On an unrelated note, I really don't remember getting this emotional when I first read these books. Now I find myself an emotional wreck everytime I think it might be the last time we see or hear from one of these characters.

  8. barnswallowkate says:

    Ohhhh FLCL. I watched it back when it ran really late on Cartoon Network and I was usually so tired I suspected that it was a hallucination. Some of those characters were really concerned about their eyebrows.

    I'm finding it hard to talk about this chapter or the last separately from the rest of the book. Neither chapter makes a lot of sense. I'll just say that it took every ounce of willpower that I possess (which, ok, is only like 2 ounces, but whatevs) to stop reading here, and I only could because I've read this before. I hope this exercise builds me up to 3 whole ounces of willpower so I can read along with you for the next book – it's been a lot of fun this way!

    • monkeybutter says:

      <img src=""&gt;

      Yeah, I've been having the same problem, especially since I don't remember half of what's going on. Really need to work on that self-control thing.

      • barnswallowkate says:

        I guess if my eyebrows were so broad and detachable I'd be really concerned about them too? IDK.

        I'm disproportionally proud of myself for doing the whole trilogy along with Mark, and it's given me some data points that say "Yes this method is fun" that I can look back to when I want to cheat in the future!

      • notemily says:

        I don't remember this chapter AT ALL. The only thing I remembered was Lyra giving the harpy a name.

      • MidnightLurker says:


    • sabra_n says:

      I watched it back when it ran really late on Cartoon Network and I was usually so tired I suspected that it was a hallucination.

      Haha, I felt that way about the bits of Cowboy Bebop I saw under similar circumstances, and my understanding is that that's not nearly as WTF-tastic as FLCL. That must have been something to experience on a sleep-deprived brain.

  9. Kudz says:

    I know I'm the only one in the world to feel this way, but I really liked the first movie – I feel like part of its problem was the number of Christian organizations trying to organize boycotts and protests. 😛

  10. arctic_hare says:

    1) Oh, Lee. :'( I'm never going to be okay with this.

    2) Lyra giving No-Name such a sweet name and hugging her, aaaaww. Made me mist up, it was so sweet.

    3) It is terrifying as hell when Lyra thinks she's starting to be able to see the Specters, and then when she feels them going after Pan.

    4) Fuck yes, witches! Totally agreed about the awesome of them having something so important to do in this war, Mark.

    5) Tialys and Salmakia. 🙁 I don't want them to die too.


  11. @thelxiepia says:

    Chapter 29 Epigraph!

    <img src=""&gt;

    Image reads: "Each man is in his spectre's power untill the arrival of that hour when his humanity awake… William Blake."

    • Harrison says:

      Interesting, because this seems to be kind of the reverse of what is true in this series, isn't it? At least my first interpretation. In HDM, Each person is immune to specters UNTIL their humanity awakes (they grow up.)

  12. (Not seen, though. I recently watched FLCL. I think that tops things out for weird battle scenes.)
    Your face when the first robot erupts from Naota's head was fucking priceless.

    (Also, that does not top things out for weird battle scenes. Watch Gurren Lagann. Then we'll talk.)

  13. stellaaaaakris says:

    I don't know what it is about my soul that makes me hate explanatory names so much. While I truly did like the sentiment behind renaming Gracious Wings (I did! I'm not a total cynic, I promise…), the actual name bothers me. To be fair, out of all the books we've read so far, this was the instance where it bothered me the least, but it still occurred so I'm still going to share my feelings with all of you. Lucky you!

    Gracious Wings is significantly better than No-Name as a name and she really earned it and it's fitting, so I won't hate on it too much. But after reading Peeta=Pita, Katniss "if you can find yourself, you'll never be hungry" Everdeen, Glimmer from the land of shiny luxury goods, tracker jackers, Silvertongue (in this case, I think I was just really attached to the name Belacqua), my brain simply refuses to accept anymore names like this. This is why I like the way Rowling named things. They brought to mind certain images or feelings, but didn't hit you over the head with them. To be fair though, Pullman isn't that bad. Two instances in a trilogy filled with too many character names to count and, in both cases, they earned it. So I'll shut up now.

    …they stumbled blindly through the puddles and the mud and the chaos of wounded men and fighting ghosts, helpless, terrified, and sick.

    I'm following along by listening to the audiobook and I refused to believe that was the end of the chapter. I thought for sure I was missing a track and pulled out my copy of TAS to check. Yup, that's it. I'm not sure what the next chapter is, but I really hope we don't switch to Mary and the mulefa yet after that cliff hanger. I don't think I can handle hanging out in trees when Pan might be in danger and Lee and Iorek are in the same place (how I want them to talk!).

    • knut_knut says:

      I lol'ed at Gracious Wings. Really, Lyra SILVERTONGUE? You couldn't come up with anything better? All those silly literal names remind me of when I was really little and would try to name my stuffed animals. I was a champion at naming my toys really obvious and uncreative names

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Haha I had a stuffed rainbow-colored bunny when I was young that I named…Rainbow. When my brother inherited it, he renamed it George. But then I realized how uncreative a name it was and named all subsequent toys after states, because I guess that's better? It would be named after the state I got in though, so I had a lot of things named Florida. Oh, well.

        • guildnstern says:

          I had an eagle stuffed animal named Eagle-y. And a whole slew of others that were animal name + y. It was so awful.

        • knut_knut says:

          awwwww that's so cute! I had a bunch of Mr. Bears and Mrs. Bears -_- I also used to collect model horses and the ones that didn’t come with names were all either Lightening (male) or Sugar (female). I could never be an author :'(

      • notemily says:

        I had a bunny named Bunni. WITH AN I. I WAS SO CREATIVE.

    • Harrison says:

      I don't know. Remus Lupin is kind of silly. I mean, what were his parents expecting with a name like that? 😉

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        This is very true. It certainly helps though that I didn't know the word "lupine" when I first read PoA. I might have had an issue if he was Professor Wolf. But 11 year old me didn't notice and 12-23 year old me didn't care and already knew his super important secret and was able to look past this particular silly name. Hypocritical? A bit, but what can you do? 🙂

    • arctic_hare says:

      Earned names don't bother me nearly as much as ones given at birth that just happen to turn out to be Meaningful later. Like, I love Lupin, but his name turning out to be so fitting for what he became is a bit silly to me. Plus the gesture in itself here, and with "Silvertongue", was so moving to me that I didn't care.

      • notemily says:

        Yeah, at least "Sirius Black" sounds like it could be an actual name that the Black parents bestowed on him. Which makes it extra awesome when it turns out he can turn into a black dog and he's thought to be the "serious" villain for much of the story.

        Most of the time JKR is the queen of meaningful names. Fenrir Greyback sort of has the same problem as Lupin, although I could see it being a name that he took on AFTER he became a werewolf. Like, his real name was Kyle Smith and that just wasn't hardcore enough.

        • hazelwillow says:

          I thought that too, and then I looked up the meanings of all the normal-seeming names in Harry Potter, and I realized it's not most of the time. JKR is the queen of meaningful names ALL the time. Like, I was amazed.

          Harry: "ruler or king"
          Ronald: "ruler's counselor"
          Hermione: "messenger "(she does give us a lot of information!)
          James: "he who supplants" (who took over Lilly's affections?)

  14. Alexis says:

    Yay! I finally caught up! I started reading The Golden Compass about a month ago and have FINALLY caught up to where Mark is! Normally, I am a pretty fast reader but between this sickness I got where I didn’t even for ELEVEN days(O_o) and a move across country, I’d say I did a pretty good job, haha.

  15. "…that these feminine creatures who are reviled throughout Christian history and popular mythology…"

    (psst. Mark. We're called "women." Thanks. ;D )

  16. Darth_Ember says:

    Shush. Don't spoil Mark. I'm guessing you're probably new here, so you might not have been told: that's a spoiler. You don't even hint at which chapters, because then he knows to anticipate things at that point, which ruins the surprise of it.

  17. pica_scribit says:

    There's something I didn't key into on my first…four readings of this series that I'm realising now. Between the bomb that made the abyss and Will cutting an exit from the world of the dead, Lyra and Will have had a hand in creating what could be seen as an actual Heaven and Hell, where before there was only a grey un-place and a lie about the afterlife. Cool!

  18. Freedom_Girl says:

    I'm only here to tell you to read the Percy Jackson series. Please do it soon. I love your reviews and right now all the books you're reading and all the series you're watching are things I have never read/watched and currently have no access to. Please start that series soon. Be aware that I am going to keep reviewing like this until you do. I don't care if I look like a freak or and obsessive fan. Also because I am an obsessive fan of stuff I must say the following, despite the fact that it has literally nothing to do with this. It's about the show Castle. I really want you to watch it, even if you don't do reviews (but you should) because the previews don't give it justice. It's actually very good and quite amusing.

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